Tag Archives: Fiction

Spencer’s Story: Volume 2

When his parents were gone on those church trips, the boys were usually left in the capable hands of any one of the four teenage girls that lived in the neighborhood. But to be capable in his parents’ eyes is to keep Spencer and his two brothers from bleeding from their eyeballs or some such injury that would land them in the hospital. To be capable in Spencer’s eyes was different, though. It was everything.

It meant he didn’t have to scrub the toilet. It meant he didn’t have to find clever ways to avoid his father. It meant he didn’t have to do as Jesus would do. Wine from stone aside, it just wasn’t that appealing.

Miah and Marcus reacted as most kids would. They went crazy. And as long as the messes were cleaned up before the parents’ arrival, and they kept it within the confines of their bedroom, they were free to do what they wanted.

But, one Saturday evening in August of ’92, things turned out differently.

“Alright kids. I need to make a phone call. Keep it down,” Tiffany, the first-year college student from three houses over, said to Spencer, Miah and Marcus shortly after the Grum parents pulled out of the driveway.

“Who are you calling?” Marcus asked.

“Yah, who ya call…”

“Guys, stop it,” Spencer interrupted. “Lets go to the bedroom.”

“But I want to know who she’s calling.” Miah responded.

“It’s none of your business. Let’s go. Who wants to play Monopoly?” Spencer said.

“I do!” Miah exclaimed.

“I get to be the boot!” Marcus replied.

“I’m the race car!” Miah said.

“I’ll be the thimble, okay? Let’s go.”

Monopoly always seemed to work. It was the one board game they owned that still had enough pieces to make it playable. They had a checkers set that was once used as ammunition for the boys’ grossly inaccurate, and mildly racist reenactment of the bombing of Pearl Harbor. The checker pieces that found their way up to the roof never were retrieved.

For the next two hours, the Grum boys sat cross-legged on the floor in their bedroom and played Monopoly. The structure of which typically went something like this:

  1. Game opens with delight, fervor
  2. 30 minutes pass without much change
  3. Miah expresses desire to make his one procured property a “super duper,” that has the power to burn its unwanted occupants with molten lava
  4. Marcus and Spencer roll their eyes and deny the request
  5. Another 30 minutes pass by with a handful of houses purchased, mostly by Marcus and Spencer
  6. Marcus is distracted by Miah’s constant fidgeting and promptly–and throughout the remainder of game–complains
  7. Miah expresses delight at having once again annoyed his older brother. He does so by making “neener neener” faces
  8. Spencer waits patiently
  9. Spencer places mansion on Boardwalk
  10. Miah and Marcus charge Spencer with cheating
  11. Spencer laughs at his brothers’ inability to handle time consumption
  12. Miah calls Marcus and Spencer a “poop eater” and quits
  13. 10 minutes later, Marcus quits for lack of money
  14. Spencer puts the game back in its box, happy to have distracted his brothers for the two hours

For Spencer, the time spent post-Monopoly matches was undoubtedly the best. His brothers, annoyed and pouting, kept mostly to themselves. The babysitter found solace in her phone calls. And he was met with a calming respite from the pressure.

Mostly, he didn’t have to keep up appearances. He wasn’t his father’s little soldier.

He was himself. His own self.

His own self.

His own self.

These are the words that played again and again as he fell to sleep on the floor in the dining room that evening in August of ’92.

When he woke hours later, with a hand around his ankle, the words seemed so far away, so distant and foreign and never to be reached again.

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The Pharmacist and His Gun

I am a pharmacist. My pharmacy sits in a precarious spot, far from the casual meander’s eye. As such, I don’t get much business. I thought about moving, but my wife says she could care less about the money it makes, just as long as I can support her codeine addiction.  So it stays in the precarious spot down the alleyway, behind the suspect Arby’s, where they make those agitated roast beef sandwiches.

Often, my pharmacy gets robbed. 37 times, to be precise. Most of the time the purloining fuckheads want drugs. In fact, 99.9 percent want drugs. Oxycontin, methamphetamine, adderall, anabolic steroids, barbiturates. The other .1 percent, believe it or not, find solace in the cool comfort of maxi-pads pressed to their faces. Like dandelions. The next morning they are usually too delirious to make much sense, the chlorine having messed up their brains.

I’ve never been a gun guy before, but I was sick of these pinheads and their pointy handguns. So I went out and bought a 357 Magnum. My brother, the sheriff of Concord, told me it was a good one, and I trust my brother. The night of the 38th break-in started out the same as the others. But as the pencil dick pointed his gun, I responded with my own.

I’ll never forget that feeling. Watching the robber freeze up, caught off guard, turn heel and run out. I chased him, you know. And then I shot at him. But I missed, as pharmacists tend to do with guns. They miss. And the fuckers get away. But I think just maybe he’ll tell his friends that the old man at the pharmacy down the road has had enough. That he can’t shoot for shit, but he’ll sure as hell try.

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In the Stillness, the Noise Stirs

In the early hours of the morning, while the cats slept, and his wife dreamed of sailboats and the big, shining sea; as the dew on the grass rested without stirring, as the sun beyond the hills wiped the crust, the dulling filmy sleep from its eyes; as the silence of the stillness, of the unmoved and bountiful, makes the noise in Hank’s head that much more pronounced.

And amidst all of this silence, all of the beauty of the composed stillness, Hank decides that he will shoot himself in the head before the beauty of the morning breaks into day.

Before his wife stirs, before she slaps the alarm clock into intermittent silences; before the cats wake and stretch their legs beside the windowsill; before the busyness and congestion takes hold in the streets, as the commuters embark upon another droll drive; before the time ticks its slow, persistent, reverberating beat, Hank will take his life.

But the noise persists in the morning calm, and before Hank takes the cold, heavy pistol in his hands, he curses the god of his youth, and the god his wife held onto so dearly. He asks himself, softly, why it had to be so.

And with a breath, he puts the gun to his head.

And pulls the trigger.

Stirrings Before the Dawn

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Favorite Books Read in 2010

It’s nearing the end of the year, and so I thought I’d compile a list of Favorite Books Read in 2010. This isn’t to say the book had to be published in 2010, but there will be that too.  Here goes.

My Favorite Books Read in the Year 2010 (in no particular order):

The Complete Essex County by Jeff Lemire

Most Anticipate Reading for 2011:

Swallow Me Whole by Nate Powell

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Top Ten Lists: An Invariable Failure

It’s  a challenge to list favorites. Or, more specifically, to name a number one favorite on a Top Ten list. There are countless reasons why this is so, as I’m sure many of you can attest to.

My list needs to include a specific and defined meaning of the term “favorite.”

To start, I need to discover the variables that come together to form my own, unique and subjective version of favorite. For example, do I take into consideration the initial impact of the book or its readability, or both?

Invariably, I fail. Encompassing lists like “favorites” tend to be too versatile and eventually serve to broaden and/or dilute the emphasis- which is, in my estimation, a failed list.

There needs to be a focus, an emphasis. A Top Ten Science Fiction Books list is a good example of something that has added emphasis. More so than a general top ten list. But is it focused enough?

I always come back to my initial thought: that these damn lists are near impossible. Regardless of the emphases I make, there is room for more. Within the aforementioned Science Fiction Favorites list, do I include fantasy novels as well? Only books that involve space travel? Books that I’ve read more than once? Books in whose characters I’ve re-inserted into my own dreams, thoughts and fantasies?

Or perhaps I’m just over-thinking it all.

As an exercise, try to list, let’s say, your Five Favorite Breakfast Cereals, in no particular order. What do you take into consideration for establishing such a list? Do you consider health, taste, texture, the satiating effect of the cereal? Do you consider how the milk interacts with the cereal- does the cereal become soggy after a few minutes, does the milk change color? Do you like the cereals that include prizes? If so, what types of prizes? Temporary tattoos? Decoder rings? Lousy coupons?

When you do establish the parameters of your Five Favorite Breakfast Cereals list, are there enough, then, to fill out your top five?

Really, at the end of the day, you like certain things for different reasons. I like Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables for its redemptive qualities. I like Kim Stanley Robinson’s Mars Trilogy because of its emphasis on a seemingly factual, or “hard,” science. But these two books could never be on the same “favorites” list.

Or could they?

I suppose that’s all up to you.

For me, I tried anyhow. What about you? Give me your favorites!

This first one is a list of my general favorites in no- oh heavens no! – particular order:

More lists to come. Stay tuned!

Project Update: Coming along slowly this week. I’ve managed to get the flu and my energy is at an all-time low.

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The Impetus

I pulled over and stuck my finger down my throat.

That is the first line of the novel. Vomit ensues, and those light blue oblong pills, of which he finds interspersed amidst the refried bean and cubed tomato.  Here, I want the reader to see that a) Alasdair is on some type of drug, prescribed or otherwise; b) that he is in a somewhat fractured mental state; c) but that he can be insightful. Just having met his long-time girlfriend’s long-time bumper buddy, and doing so on the whim- or coitus interruptus, if you will- served to bring him to this place, to this midway point between Las Vegas, Nevada, and the lonely town of Burbank, with the less than satisfactory apartment, and Paul’s, the bar, and his tab.

Alasdair, well, he is a mess. Is his journey one that can be considered positive, fulfilling? Possibly. Those who’ve read my novella, A Mindful Rendition, might just piss on that idea. But it may be. Is this a redemptive tale? It could be. Are there moments of unbearable sadness and despair? Most certainly.

Ultimately, I think, the impetus would have to be my story. I heard somewhere once that a good writer utilizes their experience, their heartaches, pains, gleaned wisdom as fodder. Or perhaps that’s just the writer in general. And perhaps that’s not even a volitional matter. Anyhow, I digress, and I must explain. My story. Yes, the novel includes many of my experiences. Alasdair Galloway is me, in a lot of ways. I suppose I ask myself, why would someone want to read your story? My only answer, or conclusion, would be that, well, it’s worth reading.

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Can’t Stop Me Now

Some time ago, I began my first novel. I had just completed a novella, my longest work at the time, and I was yearning for something a bit more expansive. That something turned out to be the revelatory and often autobiographical experience, musings, struggle, and, ultimate journey of one Alasdair James Galloway. And the story that encapsulates young Alasdair’s journey is the in-progress novel A Thousand Screaming Rabbits.

That is where the blog comes into play. It’s been something like eight months since I’ve written any legitimate fiction, and I need to remedy that. This blog will act as a sort of writing tool; an ongoing characterization of my “journey” until its invariable (!) completion. That is, at the very least, the goal. I will not actually include the story within the blog itself (although I will probably insert snippets here and there) but will instead write about just about everything else pertaining to said story: technical details, themes, ideas, characters, inspirations, et al. This blog will also help me stay on  task. No more random, if not intentionally disruptive, musings simply because I don’t have the courage to continue.

My hope is that you, my friends, will take part, play along, indulge and support me along the way.

Non Talbot Wels

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